How to choose a guitar pick

How to choose a guitar pick. Introduction

You are determined to become a guitarist. Your social networks are flooded with videos with professional guitarists, your eyes are fixed on the self-tutorial, and you’re holding a long-awaited guitar that just arrived from the store. The pick is the final piece of the mosaic that will help you chisel the very sound out of your headphones when guitar music is playing in your player. We already know how to choose guitar strings, so let’s look into guitar picks.

Play with guitar pick

What are plectrums?

Plectrums are plates of different shapes with sharpened tips. They are used to play stringed plucking instruments. Picks are made from a variety of materials, thicknesses, and shapes. Choosing a guitar pick is an individual moment for each musician.

Comfort and Tactile Feelings of guitar pick

The main rule when gripping a pick is that you shouldn’t grip it too tightly. The bigger the grip, the more tension in the hand. The more tension in the hand, the harder it will be for you to play at a fast tempo, the muscles will get “hammered” faster, just like in the gym, and your daily activities on the instrument will turn into approaches to sports equipment. Your technique suffers from muscle clamping; try not to strain your hands too hard.

Place the guitar pick on the first phalanx of your right index finger and cover it with your thumb. The small end of the pick should “look” into the guitar, not too big so you don’t “pick” the strings, but not too small either, so you don’t touch the strings with your hand. Don’t stretch out your thumb and don’t bend your index finger too much. To be sure you are doing it right, watch a professional guitarist’s video school, or better yet, take a lesson with a teacher.

Hardness and stiffness

Pickets are made in different thicknesses and materials. Depending on the thickness, a number in millimeters or a designation is written on the plectrum:

T, Thin, L, Light (0,38 – 0,65 mm) – thin
M or Medium (0,65 – 0,84 mm) – medium
H or Heavy (0,84 – 1,2 mm) – thick
XH, Extra Heavy (1.2 to 3mm) – very thick

Depending on the material, the pick may have different stiffnesses. If you are looking for more readability and clarity when playing, medium or hard picks are your options.

The softness of the guitar pick

Soft picks (0.38mm to 0.65mm) are easier to play because they do not get “stuck” in the strings and move along them more easily. For example, when you play a sweep, this point is very important, otherwise, you will not be able to achieve a smooth gliding on strings. On the other hand, thin picks do not give you such a powerful and clear attack that you can get with thicker picks. If you feel like you’re doing it right, but it still sounds a little muddy, try a thinner guitar pick.

Play with guitar pick

The grip of the guitar pick – smooth or rough?

Some picks are made of smooth material, while others are specially made rough. The roughness can be created by the matting of the material itself or by a special area that is made so that your finger does not slip on it. Often, sweat can cause a normal guitar pick to change its position or fall out of your hand. You’d better begin to feel the guitar with a rough pick because this faithful friend will not fidget when holding it and will not leave your fingers at the most important moment.

If you feel that the relief of a pick constrains your playing, try a smooth pick, maybe its time has come!

Sound – Do guitar picks affect the sound?

Pickups are made of different materials, each with a different tone and characteristics. Wooden picks give an interesting sound, but wear out quickly; metal picks create a warm and close tone but do not bend at all. Plastic, nylon, celluloid, and others give a classic guitar tone and are the most common among guitarists. There are also exotic versions of picks made of natural or synthetic tortoiseshell, ivory, buffalo horn, all of which sound distinctive, but are not easy to find and, by and large, are not worth the gamble.

Size and Shape

The size and shape of a pick is the first thing a guitarist pays attention to when coming to a music store. It’s the same as the thickness – it’s all very individual. Don’t be afraid to try different picks to see which one suits you best. The guitar pick should fit comfortably in your hand and should not make you uncomfortable while playing.

Form of guitar pick

There are five basic forms of mediators:

guitar pick

Standard – the shape, resembling a drop with rounded edges, is considered the classic and most recognizable
Jazz – these picks look like a tear with straight edges and a sharp tip
Teardrop – these plectrums are teardrop-shaped with rounded edges
Triangle – picks in the shape of an equilateral triangle, each corner of which can be played Sharkfin – a pick in the shape of a “shark’s fin”, you can play it with the ribbed or ordinary side
Plectrums with claws are finger picks that are used for fingering, where you need a clearer sound.

Sharp or blunt tip

Guitar teachers teach that the smaller the tip of the guitar pick plays over the strings, the easier it is to control the action and the easier it is to play fast tremolo parts. Sharper-tipped picks produce a sharper, more concrete sound that you can easily adjust the dynamics of. Whether to choose a blunt or sharp-tipped pick is up to everyone, try all the options you can. As you master the instrument, you’ll find that different picks just give different sounds that are appropriate in different situations. There is no “good” option, but there is one that is right for you. The main rule is don’t load the pick too much into the strings, it creates dirt.

guitar pick

Bevel Angle

The angle of the plectrum depends on the tone you get when you attack. For example, a sharp plectrum produces a clearer and more concrete sound. A plectrum with a blunt bevel, because of its blurred tone, is more suitable for playing chords, where the priority is the density of the sound.

Large or small guitar pick

The advantage of a large pick is that it is harder to let it out of your hand when you are playing. When your hand gets wet with sweat, the pick may start to walk around in it. The small one is likely to fall out, the big one will probably turn but stay in your grip. The feel of playing with different-sized picks is different. To understand what suits you, it is better to try both variants from different manufacturers and of different thicknesses.

Jazz III guitar pick

According to many guitarists, the Jazz III shape is one of the most comfortable. The classic Dunlop Jazz 3 fits easily in your hand, has a comfortable shape, and is made of durable material that remains resistant to wear and tear for a long time. The Jazz 3 is comfortable to play almost any kind of music, it gives a rich and rich tone, a tight attack, and good articulation with the right grip and playing.

 guitar picks

Triangular guitar pick

One of the great advantages of the triangular guitar pick is that all three corners of the pick work. Whichever end the plectrum is unfolded when playing, you’ll be able to play with it. Triangular picks last longer, but they take some getting used to, especially if you’ve previously opted for more traditional shapes.

Mediator Thickness – Influence on the Attack

The thickness of the plectrum is crucial to the attack. The thickness of the plectrum largely determines what tone you get when you play.

Thin guitar picks

Thin picks are great for playing chords, but they don’t give you the density you need for rhythm parts. These picks bend well but give little bass and midrange. Thin picks are also suitable for speed playing. Thin plectrums will allow you to comfortably play a sweep or just use a more economical sound with its elements.


Standard-thick picks give a tighter sound than thin picks. This thickness is the most common among guitarists. This is because these picks have balanced hardness and softness, so they are suitable for both tight rhythm and solo parts.

How to choose a guitar pick

Thick guitar pick

Thick picks are for those who are used to getting the most out of their guitars. If you play heavy music and use big-gauge strings, a thick pick lets you “rock” the deck and make it resonate more fatly. These picks have a fuller, louder sound. You can regulate the dynamics of playing with the force of the blow so you have more control over your guitar.

Natural materials

In addition to the usual plastic or nylon picks, there are plectrums made of natural materials.

Turtle shell guitar pick

As sad as this news is for wildlife advocates, plectrums used to be made from the shells of poor turtles. Tortoiseshell picks give a bright and rich tone, and they are quite stiff even though they are not very thick. Their main disadvantage, aside from the reptiles being destroyed, is that they are hard to find. You can’t find a “turtle” plectrum in regular music stores. Another thing is plectrums made of turtle shell substitute. They are also hard to find, but the clear and recognizable tone is worth it. The minus of these picks is that they are all very thick.

Ivory guitar pick

Ivory picks are thick, don’t bend at all, and squeal when played. Nevertheless, many guitarists like such picks, though it is hard to call their attack ideal. The pluses are durable and wear-resistant.

Wooden guitar picks

Mediators made of wood are tactile and pleasant. Their texture makes playing more pleasant. On the plus side, you can note the bright and recognizable tone, on the minus side, the wood quickly chafes against the metal strings.

guitar pick

Metal guitar picks

Metal picks give a warm and pleasant tone, but feel stiff when you play them – they don’t bend at all. If you use Elixir or any other polymer-wound strings, a metal pick is not your option. It will quickly destroy all the polymers, and the strings will lose all their durability benefits. Besides, the torn cellophane on the strings is not a pretty sight.

Materials of manufacture are synthetic

From killing turtles and cutting down forests, let’s move on to more familiar types of picks – synthetic ones.

Thermosetting plastic

These plectrums are considered some of the best among synthetic ones. Comfortable beveling, durability, and wear resistance are what you should get them for. Or at least try them. The minus is that thermoset plectrums are very thick.

Nylon Guitar Picks

These picks can be noted only for their small cost. They are flexible, pleasant to the touch, but they are brittle and wear out quickly.

Celluloid guitar pick

These are simple and inexpensive picks. They are the most common among guitarists, but they have a short lifespan, the softness and brittleness of the material take their toll.

guitar picks

Tortex / Delrin guitar Picks

This is a “good classic. The material of such plectrums is pleasant to the touch and has its own unique bright and “whipping” tone. Many professional guitarists choose plectrums made of this material. Also, a plus is that they can be found at any guitar store.

Ultem / Ultex Picks

Guitarists note that for their price, these picks give “that turtle tone” they’re so looking for. A nice bonus is that Ultex can be found almost anywhere.

Finger guitar picks

Finger picks are designed to give a recognizable country overdub sound with crisp-sounding notes and a bright attack.

Thumbpick – Thumb guitar Pick

This pick allows you to get a “hybrid” for playing overdubbing, but with a clearer attack. Thumbpick is also suitable for playing chords when you need minimal blurring of the attack.


Mediators claw – a substitute for nails

These plectrums are worn on the fingers, at the level of the first phalanx. They allow you to play overdubs, but with a more distinctive sound. Genre-wise, they are a must for bluegrass, traditional country, and banjo playing. Also, many finger-style performers use similar picks.

Tips for choosing a guitar pick

The best tip is to never be afraid to experiment! Buy different picks, try them out, and look for your perfect one, sure to be waiting for you in the window of some music store.

Options for beginner musicians

Standard-form medium-thick plectrums are the perfect option for beginner guitarists. Ultex and Tortex will never let you down, last a long time, and help you get a bright and good tone. Also, a beginner musician is better off using a rough plectrum, it is easier to fit in the hand and less likely to slip out.

Options for advanced guitarists

The main difference between an advanced guitarist and a beginner is that they know exactly what sound they want. If it is dense rhythm parts – it is better to take something harder and tougher, preferably with a sharp edge. If the guitarist likes to play something fast and sweepy, a soft plectrum that will be malleable while playing is the right one for him.

advanced guitarists

Selecting a plectrum depending on the musical instrument

Depending on the instrument, the choice of picks will be different.

Suitable for Electric Guitar

Depending on what strings you’re using, what kind of music you’re playing, and what tone you want to achieve, there are plenty of options. If you’re using a lowered build and thicker strings, try a thick thermoset plectrum. If you like fast passages, brightness, and a distinct tone, try Jazz 3. For beginners, take a medium-thick, soft, classically shaped guitar pick, play it and see what you are missing.

Guitar pick suitable for Bass Guitar

Since bass guitars have thicker strings and more spacing, they’ll need to be strung harder. Thick, large plectrums are great for this purpose. This shape and size will give you more control over your instrument.

Suitable for acoustic guitar

Acoustics love soft picks. When playing chords, the sound should be intelligible, but melodious and coherent, the notes should sound the same volume. Rearrangement on an acoustic guitar is also better to play with a soft plectrum.

acoustic guitar

Suitable for classical guitar

Generally speaking, classical guitars are usually played with your fingers, but if you want a little more attack, try picks – claw picks and thumb picks. Since classical guitars have nylon strings, try using soft picks made of nylon or other pliable material.

Popular manufacturers

There are classic and time-tested brands among mediator manufacturers, and there are newer ones, and there is more every day. Below, we’ll touch on the classics.

Dunlop guitar pick

This company makes the most recognizable Tortex and Ultex picks made of durable plastic. Mediators of this company distinguish a huge variety of colors, shapes, and thicknesses. Dunlop also produces the Jazz 3 picks, which must be tried by every guitarist. The cost of picks from Dunlop is average.

Planet Waves

Joe Satriani has released a series of signature Planet Waves celluloid picks. The firm makes picks in a variety of materials, including nylon and duration. In the range there are different colors and thicknesses, in Russia, they are not sold everywhere, but you can find them.

Fender guitar pick

Fender makes inexpensive and mid-range picks. They come in different thicknesses and shapes, wear out quite quickly, but also cost inexpensive.


Others guitar picks

There are many other manufacturers of picks, such as Ernie Ball, Gibson, Ibanez. Different brands of picks are worth trying, especially if you have experience playing the guitar. Each has its pros and cons.

Guitar picks Accessories

There are many accessories on the market to make it easier for the guitarist to store picks and provide quick access to them.

Guitar pick Deck Holder

A guitar pick holder is a plastic mold that fits 1-3 picks snugly. Usually, this holder is designed for standard-shaped and medium-thickness picks. Disadvantage – such holders spoil the appearance of a guitar if they are installed in a prominent place.

Holder for strings

For those who want to store picks on the fingerboard, there is a special mount. It mounts to the strings and is a simple clamp for two picks. If your guitar hangs on the wall in your home, this is the perfect way to keep your picks handy and on hand.

Holder for microphone stand

This type of guitar pick holder is especially useful for singing guitarists. If a pick slips out at the most crucial moment, there will always be a spare on the stand.

Holder for microphone stand

Pouch for guitar picks

If you don’t like to keep extra things in your purse or constantly lose things from your pockets, a pouch for picks is your choice. It can be attached as a keychain to your keys or stored in your tool pouch – the important thing is that you’ll always have your picks with you.

What guitar picks popular guitarists choose

– Carlos Santana uses V-Picks, triangular convex picks that give a rich tone
– Jimmy Page, Gene Simmons, and David Gilmore prefer the Herco Flex 75, a classic shape with a blunt nose. It provides good attacks and variations of play.
– Jimmy Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn played classic celluloid Fenders. Such plectrums are considered classics for blues and rock.
– The Beatles played with Sharkfin Plectrums for comfortable acoustic playing.

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